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Investigation: The total number of ISAF disability countries is close to 32 depending on your count

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Given the ongoing issues in the sailing community over their desire to see sailing included back on the program for the 2020 Paralympic Games, or at least the 2024 Summer Paralympic program, ParaSport News investigated the claims made by ISAF management regarding total events not being counted and the IPC implications that there was not a minimum number of sailors required.  Based on internationally classified sailors, ParaSport News thinks that sailing met the minimum standard.  While the total countries appearing to have participated in ISAF recognized events is at 32, ParaSport News would question the fact that six countries only appear to have participated in one event between 2012 and 2015.



The IPC handbook with requirements for inclusion on the program says, “Only individual sports and disciplines widely and regularly practised in a minimum of thirty-two (32) countries and three (3) IPC regions may be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games.”  The guidelines specify that a country count ifs, “It has been holding recognised/sanctioned National Championships within the last four (4) years OR: It has been competing with a national delegation in internationally recognised/sanctioned competitions on a regular basis within the last four (4) years.”  The handbook goes on to state, “The application must include proof in the form of official results lists that the “widely and regularly practiced criteria” is fulfilled.”


The interactive map below includes a count by country all ISAF classified and ISAF ranked disability sailors.  It represents 302 sailors from 32 countries, with the vast bulk coming from five different countries: the United States (45), Australia (26), Great Britain (24), Canada (23) and Spain (23).   While making up 15% of the total countries, they compromise 31% of the total sailors.



Another way of understanding what the IPC may have been looking at is to look at the individual competitions, where they are located and the number of national team delegations competing in each unique race.  Each boat type was listed as its own race.  Only races between 2012 and 2015 were counted. On the whole, not a lot of countries were hosting events, and those that they were hosting did not draw a lot of national delegations.



The event information gives a better picture of how many countries were active.  This is visualized in the map below.  With the IPC requiring 32 countries competing internationally on a regular basis, there is a challenge.  While the available data shows 32 countries have been active between 2012 and 2015, several countries may not be active on a regular basis.  This is problematic for Denmark who, in this period, appear to have only participated at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Estonia who appear to have only participated in the 2014 Delta Lloyd Regatta – 2.4 Metre, Guatemala who appeared to have only participated in the 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami  – 2.4 Metre, Hong Kong who appear to have only participated in 2014 Asian Para Games – 2.4 Metre and SKUD 18, Poland  who appear to have only participated in the 2014 IFDS Combined World Championships  – 2.4 Metre and SKUD 18, and  Turkey who appear to have only participated in 2013  ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma  – 2.4 Metre.  Take out these six countries for lack of regular participation, and the numbers are well below what the IPC appears to be seeking.



Information sources for athlete lists: ISAF Disability sailing rankings as of March 20152015 ISAF classification list.  If a person is not ranked or is not internationally classified, it is difficult to understand how they qualify under IPC standards for elite athletes.  Information sources for event lists: World Championships, Paralympic qualification, Search results for 2014 – 2016.  


Some participation numbers are a bit misleading as there are at least four events listed for New Zealand, where New Zealand was the only country which participated.  This is also the case for at least one Australian event, one Canadian event and one United States.  It is also unclear from a number of results if these were representatives for national teams or sailing clubs.  Of the events listed, not all were on Paralympic boats, including a Canadian one.  If an event did not list nationality for at least one sailor, it was left off. This was the case for 2014 North American Challenge Cup (NACC) even though it was listed as an ISAF listed event. If the boats had mixed nationalities, they were not counted towards unique national teams.  In some cases, the ISAF page said some boats appeared but the event’s webpage said differently or did not count results for this. Some results were just not findable, for instance XX ATLANTIC WATERSPORTS GAMES and Match Race Minas Gerais For Disabled Sailors, Vela Adaptada 2nd Campeonato Mineiro De Vela Adaptada, International Trapseat Cup.  In the case of 2013 Atlantic Water sports Games, results were not findable and the disability category was open to able-bodied sailors. 2.4mR World Championship 2013 appeared to be similar with able-bodied competitors competing against disability sailors.

Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2569 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees. She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra.

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